Tea Room at Gambrill State Park
The Tea Room is a native stone building overlooking the Middletown Valley that has been a fixture at Gambrill State Park for the past 75 years. The Tea Room, originally designed for community events and gatherings, was constructed in 1934 by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (“CCC”.) Today it is a popular destination for weddings, business meetings, family reunions, and other special events. The traditional Tea Room, made popular in Great Britain, is a small room or restaurant that severed tea and light refreshments where social interactions were commonplace. Tea Rooms gained a lot of popularity during the Temperance Movement in the 1800’s as an alternative to establishments that severed alcoholic beverages. Tea Rooms have been popular in many cultures throughout the globe for thousands of years. In China, tea was developed for medicinal purposes, and later popularized as a common beverage. Before long, Tea Houses became popular meeting places.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was created during the Franklyn Roosevelt Administration during the height of the Great Depression. The CCC was made up primarily of unemployed single males ages 17 -25. It was the mission of the “CCC Boys” as they were called, to help restore the natural resources which had been declining due to exploitation and neglect. The development of the CCC was in response to widespread unemployment that had gripped the county following the Great Depression. The CCC program was a multifaceted enterprise that was administered by a number of Federal, state, and local agencies, along with private citizens. The US Army normally provided camp officers, housing, food, and medical care for the crews and other Federal, State, and local agencies designated work projects, trained the crews, and provided oversight. There were 15 -21 CCC Crews operating in Maryland at any given time from 1933 – 1940 that were administered by Forest Service, Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers, and other individuals. Some of the activities CCC Crews participated in include reforesting; fighting forest fires; constructing roads and trails; building cabins; restoring historic structures; building campgrounds; building ponds and dams; and constructing unique buildings like the Tea Room and Nature Center at Gambrill State Park. The Gambrill Park CCC Camp was made up of 200 men whose main job was to build and develop infrastructure throughout the Park. The crew began work at the Park in 1933, and by 1940 they had constructed most of the facilities that exist today including the stone overlooks, the roads, hiking trails, the Ranger’s residence, three wooden shelters, the Nature Center, and of course, the Tea Room.
Article and photos by FCFCDB member
Nature Note for 1/26/20